Rookie leaders: Blues halves take charge
Rookie Blues halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson have been thrown in the deep end by coach Laurie Daley, who has asked the pair to address teammates as a group prior to training sessions and take control on the field.
Reynolds said Daley has been pulling the two halves aside prior to training and doing some extra video work, then asking them to deliver that to the team.
"He's got me and Trent up to talk to the boys so it's a bit different. Just about the field stuff, what we're going to do on the field, how we're going to run it. We do the video with him before it then we have to deliver it to the boys," Reynolds said.
"The first day was a bit daunting but now we've done it a bit last night and today, we're confident. The boys, you can tell they're listening to us, all their eyes are on us. It gives me and Trent confidence that the boys are in and they're listening."
Hodkinson told NRL.com that with a shorter than usual training camp at just seven days (the side was announced on the Tuesday, two days later than usual) it was better to be thrown straight into it.
"You can't leave it to the last minute, it was good that we got that opportunity to do that straight away and start right from the word go," he said.
He said it was good to be given the chance as newer players to come into the squad and be entrusted with a leadership role.
"Loz asked us to get up there and take a bit of leadership in front of the boys and let them know what's going on with our attack. It was good for us to get the cobwebs out straight away and get up in front of the group. It's a good feeling at the moment. Hopefully me and Josh can take that combination we've got going on at the Bulldogs into the Blues."
Reynolds said the pair had been nervous at first but got over that quickly.
"You've got to talk to guys that have played however many Origins and done whatever in their career and me and Trent are coming in here as our first combination and they're telling us to take control," he said.
"When you're put into a situation like that it can be a bit daunting but we've got our heads around it and in the end it's been really good. We got up there and I felt really confident telling the boys what we needed to do and we went out on the field [in the training session] and nailed it.
He said the playmakers were comfortable in the knowledge that the senior players would give them any feedback they needed and vice versa.
"We told the boys if there's any feedback that you want to give us, even negative or that we're not doing right, just tell us, we can take it and we'll fix it. It's a bond already that they can tell us if we're not leading them around the park or we can tell them if we need to fix something. I think you need that in a team, you can't just tiptoe or step on eggshells all the time."
He said there is also plenty of talk coming from senior players in captain Paul Gallen, hooker Robbie Farah and fullback Jarryd Hayne.
"Robbie and Gal are the other two leaders. Gal doesn't have a lot to say but when he does everyone listens because he's on the mark a lot of the time. Robbie's been here for a long time and also Haynesy, the spine, Laurie really wanted the spine running the team. It's good, no-one's holding back and I think that's what we need."
Prop James Tamou also backed the role the halves were playing.
"The best thing about it is we've got 'Grub' [Reynolds] in the halves who's 100 miles an hour and he talks all the time. He's really taken the leadership role on board as a half for us. Same with Hodko, Hodko's playing on the back of that. They obviously play together in club footy so for them to come together at this level must be great for them and I know they'll do well."
Reynolds said the pair's experience in winning tight games – the Bulldogs won three consecutive games by one point on the back of field goals from Reynolds (once) and Hodkinson (twice) – would also help.
"It definitely helps to know that we've had a few games like that," Reynolds told NRL.com.
"I haven't had many games like that [previously] where I've been in the hot seat and had to deliver the field goal or be there with Trent. It's good and it's definitely helped my confidence to know that we can do it if it comes to that time."
Hodkinson said training had lifted in intensity over the first couple of days.
"Training's been real positive, we had our first run going through our plays and it was a bit of a lighter session but it was nice and sharp, then day two was up another level. Everyone's on the same page, everyone's been talking and putting in and they've been going well," he said.
"We knew we were going to lift the intensity on the second day but it felt really good out there, everyone was on the same page and everyone's talking, everyone's geeing everyone up so it's been really good.
"It can't come soon enough – it's probably going to come around pretty quickly, I'm just going to soak it all up, not going to listen to too much outside of what we're here to do. We're in camp, I'm just going to bunker down and I'm looking forward to it."